Hurghada is a brash and booming resort town on mainland Egypt’s Red Sea coast, a once-sleepy fishing village that has metastasized at breakneck speed and now sprawls more than 20 miles along the shore. Set right about where the Gulf of Suez meets the Red Sea proper, Hurghada’s growth has been fueled by the quality of the snorkeling and scuba diving, and its convenience as a cheap sun, sea, and sand destination for Europeans (it’s especially popular with Russians).
While the endless parade of hotels, clubs, souvenir bazaars, and other tourist trappings may not be to everyone’s taste, the underwater world is, well, a different kettle of fish. The Red Sea is warm, sheltered, and offers excellent visibility. The reefs are mostly offshore and there are plenty of companies that will take you out on a boat for half- and full-day snorkeling and diving trips. In some areas the coral is suffering from the volume and pace of development, but in others it remains a vibrant and otherworldly undersea forest of bright colors and fantastical shapes, home to hundreds of darting fish. The lucky might even encounter a turtle or a pod of dolphins; scuba divers might catch glimpse of a shark in deeper waters, and can also do some wreck dives.
Hurghada offers plenty of action above the water, too, including windsurfing, kiteboarding, and waterskiing. And if you really aren’t a water person, there’s always the harsh beauty of the desert to explore by camel, quad-bike, or 4x4.